Be Obedient to God's Will

09-27-2020Weekly ReflectionFr. Arul Doss

Dear People of God,

We continue to reflect upon the meaning of Christian discipleship in the context of the Kingdom of God in this 26th Ordinary Sunday. The dominant theme of today's Scripture Readings is to lead a virtuous life by being obedient to the will of God.

In today’s First Reading, Prophet Ezekiel exhorts the people of Israel to renounce their wicked ways and to embrace the life-giving grace of God. Conversion is a vital option and a personal challenge. There is only one way to life - by living a virtuous life here and now. God does not want the death of a sinner, but that he may live.

In today’s gospel reading, Jesus reiterates the necessity of making a fundamental option for the Kingdom of Heaven revealed in Him. Today, we hear another Kingdom parable—’the Parable of the Two Sons.’ Here our struggle with obedience is exemplified by the two sons mentioned in the parable—first son who first says ‘no’ but changes his mind later and does the will if his father, and second son whose ‘yes’ remains only in word and unrealized in deed. The ideal way is both to promise and to do—and that with graciousness.

Today’s parable seems simple and straight-forward. Jesus had found far more openness to his message among sinners than among the religious leaders. The tax collectors and prostitutes heeded his call to conversion and were making their way into the Kingdom of God. But the religious leaders stubbornly refused to change their lives.

The Jewish people were the ones who said they would obey God but didn’t. The tax collectors and sinners were those who said they would not obey God but then repented and did obey him.

We are dealing then in the parable, not with two individuals, but with two sets of people. Christ was not really praising either set. Both sets were imperfect, but he was saying that one of them was better than the other. Neither son in the story acted in a way that would bring total joy to his father. Both were unsatisfactory. But the one who finally obeyed his father, was a lot better than the other. The ideal son, of course, would be the son who immediately carried out his father’s orders.

There are some people who will promise anything. At the initial stage of the project, they are loud in their protestations of willingness and loyalty. But when it comes to the actual doing stage, they fade away. Then there are others who are initially reluctant to promise anything, and from whom little can be expected. Yet often these are exactly the people who come up trumps, provided we know to appeal to them.

The parable teaches us that promises can never take the place of performance, and fine words can never be a substitute for fine deeds. We shouldn’t think that the parable has nothing to say to us. Part of us says ‘yes’ to God with our words, and part of us says ‘no’ to God with our deeds. We must, therefore, constantly examine ourselves. We must try to turn our promises into fulfillment, to turn our words into deeds. We must see ourselves in need of continual conversion.